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Moral Concerns

Dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals can be a good way to answer questions and clear up misconceptions for vaccine-hesitant patients. In this dialogue, it can be helpful to understand the underlying reason why a patient might be reluctant to get a vaccine. We call this underlying reason the ‘attitude root’. Attitude roots refer to deep psychological factors, such as a person’s level of trust or distrust, that shape and constrain people’s beliefs and attitudes.

This tool explains some of the most common attitude roots and how they may show up as arguments expressed by a vaccine-hesitant patient. It also identifies some of the most common themes related to each attitude root, so that we can address them.

Understanding the attitude roots of hesitancy also helps us guide our empathy with a patient. Empathy is an important component of communication, and one way in which we can show empathy is by affirming the reasons for a patient’s concerns. For example, we can acknowledge that there have been cases in which governments have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. This tool gives some examples of affirmations for each attitude root. We can use those examples to understand and empathise with how the patient is feeling about vaccination.

Finally, the tool provides refutations for common arguments and misconceptions that a patient may have. These refutations take into account the likely attitude root and try to correct misconceptions while still affirming the patient’s psychological predispositions.

Some people may feel that vaccines are contrary to their moral stance. Vaccines may be perceived as promoting immoral behaviour or as having been developed using immoral means.

Moral concerns differ from religious concerns because even though morality may stem from religious beliefs, faith is not a necessary condition for developing certain moral positions. For example, people may oppose abortion for moral reasons without appealing to religious beliefs.

Moral concerns about vaccines often arise in the context of sexuality. For example the vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV) which is sexually transmitted may be seen to encourage sexual activity.

Moral concerns may also arise around the use of foetal cell lines in vaccine production or the alleged mistreatment of animals during vaccine development processes.

Unethical experimentation

Non-consensual experimentation, child experimentation or animal mistreatment


Sexual promiscuity

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine would be a license for sexual activity at a young age


Health is not business

Pharmaceutical profits are immoral


Bad parenting

Those who rely on vaccination for their child's health demonstrate poor values



It is not morally right to sacrifice individuals for the sake of many


Anti-abortion position

Moral outrage at the use of cells or tissues from aborted foetuses to produce vaccines